A partnership with two area high schools to provide local students with hands-on, real-life science lessons by studying air quality in the area is among several Hope College projects to receive grants from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) in February.

A total of seven projects from Hope received funding from the consortium through its 2014-15 grant period. The awards to Hope projects, which total more than $34,000, include four fellowships for students conducting collaborative research with members of the physics and engineering faculty, a “seed grant” for faculty research, and two program awards for Hope initiatives focused on pre-college science experiences.  The awards to the college included four of the 19 undergraduate fellowships and two of the 10 research seed grants that the consortium funded.

The pre-college project focused on air quality, which is beginning this spring and will continue during the summer, is connecting the Center for STEM Inquiry at Hope with teachers at Holland Christian High School and Holland Public Schools to develop research experiences and related curriculum focused on exploring air quality in the area.  The initiative seeks to teach and excite students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines by engaging them in exploring meaningful questions.

“Hope College’s Center for STEM Inquiry is excited to partner with Holland Christian and Holland New Tech along with the great array of community partners on this project,” said Susan Ipri Brown, who is director of the center and a visiting instructor of engineering.  “We aim to provide innovative, real-world based STEM programs for area students, and this focus on air quality allows the students to get excited about an impact of science and engineering in their own lives.  Personal engagement with a topic is an extremely important factor in motivating students to want to study science and engineering careers.”

The program will begin with students in science classes at the two schools collecting and analyzing data related to air quality using sensors at locations such as their homes and schools.  Their work will start with building the equipment they will be using and will continue through sharing their data through community programs such as the “Living Sustainably on the Lakeshore” series.  The curriculum and research model is being developed by teachers at the two schools with assistance from Hope and the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute based at the college.

A teacher workshop this summer will provide an opportunity for additional educators to learn about the initiative and how they might integrate it into their own instruction.  Additional students will have an opportunity to participate through a week-long STEM Summer Academy hosted by the college.

In addition to Ipri Brown, leads on the project include Don Triezenberg, a member of the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Group and program developer; Dale Elzinga, a science teacher at Holland Christian; Allison Hrabec, a secondary teacher with Holland Public Schools; and Dr. Stephen Remillard, associate professor of physics and chairperson of the department at Hope.

The other pre-college initiative funded through the MSGC will continue a program established last summer in partnership with the Muskegon Area Regional Math and Science Center.  Through the award, Hope STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students work with area teachers in developing a summer program for high school students that will immerse four 10-student engineering design teams in a one-week challenge and also support follow-up and a professional development session.  The Hope leaders for the project are Dr. Eric Mann, assistant professor of mathematics education, and Ipri Brown.

The four Hope students receiving fellowships for summer research and their faculty mentors are:  freshman Sarah Caballero of Yorba Linda, California, who will work with Dr. Peter Gonthier, professor of physics, on “Spin-dependent cyclotron rates in strong magnetic fields”; freshman Kathleen Finn of White Lake, who will work with Dr. Katharine Polasek, assistant professor of engineering, on “A Computer Model to Predict the Effect of Surface Electrical Stimulation”; junior Jesse Ickes of Grandville, who will work with Gonthier on “Compton scattering in strong magnetic fields”; and freshman Anne O’Donnell of Royal Oak, who will work with Gonthier on “A new generation of population synthesis of normal radio and gamma-ray pulsars.”

Remillard received the faculty seed grant for “Rutherford Backscattering analysis of exotic new functional thin films.”  The project, which will involve collaborators from around the world, will be performed using the college’s ion beam accelerator and scanning electron microscope, and will study materials including superconductors, semiconductors and superlattices.  Remillard will work with freshman Jacob Pledger of Lehigh Acres, Florida.

Hope will provide additional support for each of the projects, including stipends for the Hope students as they conduct research during the summer, and matching funds for the faculty and institutional projects.

The Michigan Space Grant Consortium seeks to foster awareness of, education in, and research on space-related science and technology in Michigan, and is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.  Hope and Calvin College are the only undergraduate colleges that are members of the consortium, which also includes Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State University, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.